October 3rd, 2013
07:06 PM ET
12 months ago

Reid to CNN: Boehner’s ‘job is not as important as our country’

Washington (CNN) – In an interview with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused House Speaker John Boehner of being more worried about his job than the country amid a government shutdown.

The Nevada Democrat also talked for the first time Thursday about Boehner reneging on an agreement between the two over a “clean” spending bill, and admitted he directed his chief of staff to  leak embarrassing e-mails that they say indicate Boehner changed his position on Obamacare subsidies for Congress.

Reid also followed up on his controversial comments from Wednesday, when he took issue with the idea that the Senate should vote to fund clinical trials for cancer patients at the National Institutes of Health during the shutdown.

In the interview, Reid criticized Boehner for bowing to a conservative faction of his caucus that insists on attaching anti-Obamacare provisions to a temporary spending bill needed to fund the government.

“His job is not as important as our country,” Reid said.

While a more moderate group of the GOP caucus is trying to generate support for a “clean” continuing resolution, Boehner has not agreed to bring their plan up for a vote.

“I say to my friend John Boehner–and I do like him, I’ve said that lots of times–John, if you want to really have history books account who you really are, do this,” he said, urging Boehner to take up the clean bill.

“He has to have some courage,” he added.

Clearly agitated at the memory, Reid said the two met in early September and reached a compromise about the end-of-the month deadline to pass a spending bill. Reid said Boehner agreed to pass a $988 billion spending package, $70 billion less than what the senate leader wanted.

“That was really hard,” Reid said, referring his decision to drop $70 billion. “My caucus really didn't like that. We took a real hit.”

Asked if Boehner at the time promised to deliver a clean continuing resolution, Reid said: “That's why we did it.  That's why we agreed to that lower number.  So that's one of the largest compromises since I've been in Congress.”

Republicans passed a series of bills on Wednesday with majority support that would fund national parks, the National Institutes of Health and District of Columbia operations while the government remains shut down.

But Reid has refused to take them up, saying the government should be funded all at once. The White House also issued a veto threat.

Reid, who's been known to use explosive terms to describe the tea party, defended his choice of words, especially when he calls them “anarchists.”

“Why in the world wouldn't I use the term anarchy? That's what they are, they're anarchists,” he said. “They don't believe in government at any level.  That's why we have members of Congress over there today and yesterday saying finally, we're able to close the government.”

He conceded that calling them “the weird caucus,” as he’s previously done, was “probably a little over the hill,” but said he won’t give up on referring to them as anarchists.

“There's no better description I can make,” he said. “They're not blowing up buildings and they're not killing people. But they're throwing much - monkey wrenches in the wheels of government.”

On Wednesday, Bash asked Reid at a press conference why he would refuse to pass a bill to fund the NIH’s clinical trials, which have stopped amid the shutdown.

He reiterated his stance against funding the government piece by piece.

"Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting at home. They have a few problems of their own,” he said. “To have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing means you're as irresponsible and reckless.”

Republicans quickly seized on his answer, using it to paint the Democrat as uncaring and insensitive.

While Reid admitted he was not articulate in his answer, he said the attacks that followed were “mean-spirited.”

“I understand babies who are sick. I've got a lot of children, lots of grandchildren. I really worry about kids, probably more than others because those little bodies can't take the assaults that we as older people can take,” he said.

Reid also commented on why his staff leaked a series of e-mails between his office and Boehner’s, which, according to Reid’s office, show Boehner worked privately to preserve health insurance subsidies for lawmakers and congressional employees before publicly moving to strip them as part of the standoff over government funding.

“He was behind this all the way,” Reid said. “I did a lot of the heavy lifting, but he was part of the deal. He was there. And then to have him come and try to say, ‘this is bad, Congress is getting something others aren't getting,’ it's not true. … I thought, how could you do that?”

Democrats argue the federal support is no different than what large companies give their employees.

“I told my staff, ‘You tell his staff, if they do this, I’m going to have to go public, because this is something that is just absolutely wrong,’” he said.

A spokesman for Boehner denied Tuesday the speaker was working with the Democrats to find a legislative fix for the subsidies, outside of repealing Obamacare in its entirety and keeping congressional employees on their existing health plans.

Instead, Boehner thought the matter should be handled by the Office of Personnel Management.

“The speaker’s position is clear: He voted against Obamacare, and he wants to repeal Obamacare.  If the Senate Democrats and the White House wanted to make a ‘fix’ to the law, it would be their fix.  The speaker’s ‘fix’ is repeal,” said spokesman Michael Steel. “This is just a desperate act by Harry Reid’s staff to protect their own subsidy.”

– CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.


Filed under: Government Shutdown • Harry Reid • John Boehner • Senate
soundoff (645 Responses)
  1. freedomfailed

    Every American needs to know, a severe consequence of the federal government slimdown is much less Obama! For those of you who seek, revere and large doses of need "The One" in your life, let your voices be heard from the roof tops to the halls of Congress! We want "The One"'! We want "The One"! Your elected representatives will surely hear the hue and cry across the land and return restore budget funding and bring "The One" to us again.

    October 3, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  2. freedomfailed

    Every American needs to know, a severe consequence of the federal government slimdown is much less Obama! For those of you who seek, revere and need large doses of, "The One" in your life, let your voices be heard from the roof tops to the halls of Congress! We want "The One"'! We want "The One"! Your elected representatives will surely hear the hue and cry across the land and restore budget funding to bring "The One" to us again.

    October 3, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  3. Ken L

    Reid is the poster child for terms limits in Congress.

    October 3, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  4. freedomfailed

    Look at the picture of Reid. He looks like he's about to throw a clot.

    October 3, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  5. Mae

    Both houses of congress are equal. Spending bills originate in the people's House. If the Senate doesn't vote on the Appropriations, the problems lie there. It is obvious if the Senate holds the people's appropriations in contempt, by their vindictive actions, they have shown that they are not fit to run anything, especially American's healthcare.

    October 3, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  6. John Jerry

    Reid was all against raising the debt limit when Bush was in power, as was Obama, saying it was a failure of leadership. Reid voted to Iraq to liberate Kuwait, then bashed Bush for it, then claimed we needed to invade Syria. I wish I could say he was an aberration of political figures, but I can't, but he is one of the worst.

    October 3, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. Matador527

    Ol' Dingy Harry's job isn't as important as my half-empty tube of hemorrhoid ointment (which will probably double in price after Odumbocare)...in fact, that ointment is arguably more effective than anything ol' Harry has ever done...

    October 3, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  8. Jim boatwright

    Next we'll see these jokers having a temper tantrum on TV. Throw all of them out!

    October 3, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  9. sebastianwoof

    “His job is not as important as our country,”
    Ha!
    What about the Fasci-Socialist Democratic Party

    October 3, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  10. grendel007

    Push has come to shove. And already Americans are being "punished" for daring to stand up against government, something democrats DEMANDED was patriotic duty.
    Be prepared, the hammer and cattle prod are next...

    October 3, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  11. ImJustAGuy

    This country has not been this divided since just prior to the Civil War.

    God help those of us who survive this madness.

    October 3, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Boehner’s ‘job is not as important as our country’

    Bwahahahaha, so says the guy doing as little, if not less than, the guy he's insulting towards solving the problem.

    October 3, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  13. WarPlanner

    Ironic that a remark is made drawing attention to a Congressman's 'job,' when nearly a million civil servants are forced into a no-pay furlough status [so they don't qualify for unemployment]. These civil servants, buried in government red-tape, just do their thankless job. Just once it would be nice to see a politician jump behind a podium and take the blame for their own failures instead of using every chance to blame someone else

    October 3, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  14. James Madison

    It is a cynical and callous game that Reid plays, one of brinkmanship that he hopes, with the help of the mainstream press ("CBS news reports that the majority of Americans are against the Boehner shutdown of government") he can blame the Republicans.
    Obama and Reid are intransigent. They are childishly punishing the helpless in this game. If they truly wanted government to run, they could simply pass the bills that come before the Senate. This is the true and ugly face of the Democrat party.

    October 3, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  15. kbworkman

    Neither is yours Harry.

    At least he is third in line for the presidency.

    What are you in line for, aside from the government trough?

    October 3, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  16. Xena the warrior dog

    The best part of all theses comments is that Reid and the Dems are taking a beating on a website that carries BHO's water. The Repubs will pull this off if they stick together over the next few days or weeks. The county is behind the GOP. Stay strong.

    October 3, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  17. Prehistoric Reid, the Ice Age called, they want you back

    Neither is yours Harry. Failed Senate Leadership not passing a budget lead us here. You didn't do your job Harry, you should resign!

    October 3, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  18. Press Watch

    What an arrogant person Reid is!

    October 3, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  19. Michael D. White

    And what makes you think you're indispensable, you pathetic clown?

    October 3, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  20. gskuc

    During the Clinton years, Republicans also got "blamed" for fedgov "shutdown" (after which all those fed employees got back pay for "work" days missed). Result? Republicans lost 2 seats in the House, but GAINED 3 seats in the Senate...net gain of 1 seat in the Congress. Wonder how many seats they'll gain for being "blamed" for the phony "shutdown" this time? Statist/progressive Dems are using the defense mechanisms of projection, denial, and rationalization all over the place. They all need a huge dose of Reality Therapy before it's too late!

    October 3, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  21. Dan

    Ried if you would pass a budget you would not have this issue. Man up this is your fault. You are incompentent.

    October 3, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  22. samspade

    I think Harry's brains are scrambled from his days in the ring.

    October 3, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  23. Andrei Bilderburger

    Mr. Reid has been poisoning the relationship between himself and Mr. Boehner for a long time while Mr. Boehner turned the other cheek and tried yet again to work with Mr. Reid and Mr. Obama the way they said they wanted to work together. Then he acted in bad faith time and again.

    I hope he is not surprised by the present turn of events.

    October 3, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  24. 1689

    America is far more important than Obama keeping his job. He should keep in mind that impeachment by the House is a real possibility–the Rule of Law must be upheld.

    October 3, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  25. Andrei Bilderburger

    Tozer says:
    Boehner, Tea Partiers, and their ilk need to be taken into custody. Until order is restored, President Obama must rule by Executive Order. It is the only course that now is feasible.

    I say that doing so is Treason. It would be a coup d'etat. So far even Obama hasn't been willing to mumble about such treachery.

    October 3, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
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